When Is The MLB Draft Signing Deadline?
There was a time when the signing deadline for MLB draftees was a shifting target.
Just a little over a decade ago, players were eligible to sign until the day that they stepped foot into a college classroom. And that meant that a draftee could arrive on a college campus and enroll for classes, but the first time that the player actually attended a class, he was no longer eligible to sign. (In the case of junior college draft-and-follows, there were a further, different set of rules).
That led to some crazy situations, as sometimes a player would wait until the last day of drop/add before attending, stretching negotiations to the last minute. Eventually, a few players took it further than that. By not going back to school, players remained eligible to sign with their pro team until a true, final deadline just before the next draft. Jered Weaver and Stephen Drew, a pair of 2004 first-round picks, agreed to a deal with their respective teams on May 30, 2005. If they had not signed that day, they would have re-entered the 2005 draft.
Since negotiations often would go down to the wire—there's nothing like a deadline to force two sides to make their best offers—many of the top draftees played very little or did not play at all during their draft year. Eventually, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to set a signing deadline. In 2008, that deadline was midnight on Aug. 15. That year several of the top picks in the 2008 draft class took their negotiations down to the wire. In fact, in the case of Pedro Alvarez, his contract was not agreed to until 12:02 a.m. on Aug. 16, two minutes after the deadline. After a grievance, the contract was allowed even though it was determined the deal did happen after the deadline.
Since then, the deadline has been steadily moved up to ensure that draftees get to play during the season they were drafted. Teams and agents found that there really isn't a significant need for such a long time from drafting until the deadline. The deadline itself is the important part, as it spurs both sides to either make—or not make—a deal.
This year, the deadline is July 12 at 5 p.m. ET. Most draftees will sign well before that deadline, but by the evening of July 12 every team and every college will know which players are going to school and which players are going pro.